Osuitok Ipeelee

  Osuitok Ipeelee, earlier known as Oshaweetok B, sculptor, printmaker (b at Neeouleeutalik camp, Nunavut 13 Nov 1922; d at Cape Dorset 31 Dec 2005). His forefathers, native to West Baffin Island, had not been part of the turn-of-the-century migration from Arctic Québec. Osuitok came from a family of carvers long known for the skill and delicacy of their art. Osuitok has the highest reputation among Inuit and private collectors as a remarkable carver and printmaker.

After the 1960s Osuitok created many uniquely delicate sculptures of caribou. His earliest prints of caribou portrayed that same fragility with extreme action. His much-sought-after mature works often portrayed ghostlike caribou on long, spindly leg, a courageous feat for any artist to attempt in stone. The delicacy of these long legs would easily invite breakage during careful sculpting.

Osuitok once pointed out that these fragile inua (caribou spirits) are magically able to blow out their sides, raise their heads and become handsomer and heavier when they know humans are observing them.

Osuitok, through the 1950s and later, was "keeper of the carving stone" that he had helped to quarry in the summer. In guiding other artists when selecting stone, he came to understand the way stone fractures and breaks. That knowledge allowed him to carve his caribou spirits so gracefully.

Over the years, Osuitok built an outstanding reputation as a sculptor and probably gained as much honour and financial success as any other artist in Canada. His work is represented in art museums and important private collections throughout the world.